Sunday, August 28, 2016

Bill McKibben’s Ecology-Free Declaration of War on Climate is Dangerous and Wrong

Old-growth forests must be protected and restored
to limit abrupt climate change

Why does Bill McKibben’s recent sensationalist appeal for a “War on Climate” make no mention, not even one, of ecology or ecosystems? While understanding Mr. McKibben is trying to call for a rapid societal response at a massive scale to an urgent existential threat, perhaps a better analogy would be demobilizing to make climate peace by cutting emissions and reforesting, as declarations of war often only make things worse.

It is irresponsible and contrary to established ecological science for Mr. McKibben to promote a war on climate focused solely upon techno-optimist industrial solutions. First and foremost, climate change is an ecological issue… I, for one, am much less perturbed that Bill occasionally uses plastic bags for his groceries, than that he apparently has little understanding of the ecological systems that maintain a livable Earth. — Dr. Glen Barry
Earth Meanders, Deep ecology essays by Dr. Glen Barry
Climate policies matter. We have very few chances to get it right before abrupt climate change and related environmental and social issues collapse the biosphere. Yet the solutions being put forth by the leading climate activists—including Bill McKibben, Al Gore, Leonardo DiCaprio, Naomi Klein, and Michael Brune—are woefully inadequate. In fact, their lack of ecological focus is dangerous and wrong, and virtually ensures failure in limiting global warming to an acceptable level.

In a recent New Republic essay entitled “A World at War”, Mr. McKibben states “We’re under attack from climate change—and our only hope is to mobilize like we did in WWII.” The colorful essay correctly notes the urgency of a dramatic, urgent, and large-scale response to the threats posed by climate change. Yet we are led to falsely believe that a war-like industrial retooling to produce massively more solar panels and wind turbines more quickly will prove adequate to solve climate change. At best this is meaningless jingoism, at its worst it dangerously misdiagnoses climate change’s causes,  and does not propose ecologically sufficient climate change solutions.

NOT EVEN ONCE does Bill’s essay calling for a war on climate mention the biological and ecological aspects of our climate change conundrum. In fact, the words ecology, ecosystem, and even environment are not used. How is it that the climate movement’s perceived Martin Luther King type transformational figure has the science and policy behind climate change so dangerously wrong?
Natural ecosystem loss as a cause, and positive-feedback fed result, of abrupt climate change is once again given short shrift, and protecting and enhancing the natural environment is amazingly completely ignored once again by Mr. McKibben as an element of climate solutions. Instead we are left with war metaphors and further industrial development as a dangerously incomplete climate policy prescription.

What the hell Bill? Where is your understanding of ecology, and your embrace of widespread and connected natural ecosystems as a crucial element of any climate change solution?
Mr. McKibben, climate change is not Hitler, and waging war will not solve it. Climate change results not only from billions of pistons burning fossil fuels, it is also caused by billions of conscious decisions to destroy the naturally evolved world – one tree, or patch of ground, at a time – which through vegetation’s cycling of water, energy, and carbon have sustained a habitable Earth for eons. Of course at some level Bill you must realize this, but why not speak, write, and advocate for protecting and restoring natural ecosystems as a keystone climate change response?

Permaculture forest gardens intermixed with
regenerating old-growth key to stabilizing
carbon cycle
Maintaining natural stores of carbon and the natural carbon cycle between these repositories is of primary importance in limiting abrupt climate change and ensuring it doesn’t become run-away. Mr. McKibben’s vision of a war-like industrial mobilization is myopic and entirely ignores the re-greening of land and waters that must occur. We could end fossil fuel emissions rapidly, and still drown in historical emissions, if there are not ways to remove what has already been emitted from the atmosphere (we are at over 400 parts per million of carbon and Bill’s group’s name 350.org acknowledges we have surpassed the safe limit). How else but through natural processes associated with plant growth will global ecological balance be restored?

The simple ecological truth is that natural vegetation holds and cycles carbon in a manner that removes carbon from the atmosphere. We know much carbon is released when natural vegetation is cleared or reduced. And that there is tremendous potential to re-vegetate the vast areas of land that have been cleared of natural ecosystems, as nearly 90% of primary forests have been cleared or dramatically diminished through fragmentation. All remaining old-growth forests must be protected not only as carbon stores, but also for sources of seed and genetic variability for the coming era of ecosystem restoration and climate adaptation, and aided to expand and reconnect. Along with secondary forests undergoing succession into old-growth status, inter-mixed with organic permaculture and forest gardens, expanded natural forest ecosystems have dramatic potential to store carbon and perhaps more importantly keep it cycling.

Given how many natural terrestrial ecosystems have been lost, it is vital to avoiding willful ecocide that we stop logging ancient old-growth forests, allowing them to recover and expand.

[continue reading essay at EcoInternet]

1 comment:

  1. I agree with pretty much everything you are saying here and especially appreciate your impassioned tone.

    "The simple ecological truth is that natural vegetation holds and cycles carbon in a manner that removes carbon from the atmosphere. We know much carbon is released when natural vegetation is cleared or reduced. And that there is tremendous potential to re-vegetate the vast areas of land that have been cleared of natural ecosystems..." yes, and working with nature to restore forest biodiversity is a deeply satisfying way of life, not a sacrifice!
    My wife and I are planting and tending a "forest garden" on marginal rice paddy land here in Northeast Thailand. Looking forward to reading more from your blog, thanks.

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